Local actress Karen Tan on her dengue fever ordeal
Local actress Karen Tan recounts battle with dengue earlier this month
Jelly, watermelon and isotonic drink 100 Plus.
That was all local theatre actress Karen Tan could stomach when she contracted dengue earlier this month.
The 49-year-old told The New Paper on the phone yesterday: "At first I thought I was just having a bad flu or a stomach bug, as I had lost my appetite, was vomiting, and was suffering from fatigue and a high fever."
She added that her skin was so sensitive that it was painful to the touch.
"But I'm much better now, compared to last week or so when I felt like I was dying," she said candidly.
When TNP contacted Tan, she was at a follow-up appointment at Mount Elizabeth Novena Hospital.
Her ordeal began on Jan 10 when she developed a fever of 39 deg C.
As she did not have a cough, a runny nose or a sore throat, she did not see her general practitioner.
It was only four days later that she went to the GP because her fever had not subsided.
A blood test confirmed that Tan had dengue fever, with a blood platelet count of 108,000 per microlitre of blood. A normal person has 140,000 to 440,000 platelets per microlitre of blood.
Hers was among the record 628 cases of dengue reported that week, the highest weekly figure in over a year.
"My first thought was, you're kidding! I don't get bitten by mosquitoes easily and I couldn't even recall having any mosquito bite."
Tan's neighbourhood of Upper Thomson Road is classified by the National Environment Agency (NEA) as a dengue red zone.
Because her condition was not serious, she was told by her GP to rest at home.
However, a second blood test two days later showed that her platelet count had dropped to just 28,000 and she had to be hospitalised.
"My (gynaecologist) husband got a shock when I told him on the phone," said Tan. "That's when it hit me that it was serious.
"Who would've thought that such a small little insect could cause so much trouble?"
Thankfully, at Mount Elizabeth Novena Hospital, Tan got reassurance from her doctor, infectious disease specialist Leong Hoe Nam, that her condition was not critical.
"He was very calm while talking to me and that made me feel calm as well. I'm very lucky because my dengue was not severe; I did not experience bleeding gums or a bleeding nose and my blood platelet count did not stay low for long."
She was hospitalised for two nights - one night at Tan Tock Seng Hospital and another night at Mount Alvernia Hospital.
She was discharged on Jan 18, eight days after she first fell ill.
Tan, who has two daughters aged 20 and 11, said her family was supportive, but were not overly worried.
"It was actually my (domestic) helper who was the most concerned. She is always very careful to make sure we have no stagnant water at home, as we have a lot of plants. When I was diagnosed with dengue, she started spraying more insecticide around the house."
Tan said the doctor was happy with her blood platelet count yesterday, which was a healthy 506,000.
As she is currently not working on any productions, she was relieved that her illness did not affect her work.
Tan said she was aware that last Friday, a 47-year-old man became the first person to die of the dengue virus this year.
"I feel really terrible about the poor man. And he was really close to my age too.
"Sometimes, no matter how knowledgeable we are about a disease, nature still prevails."
She added: "With the current dengue situation, we can all do our part to help. For example, people can consider contributing mosquito patches to schools, to do something proactive."
My first thought was, you're kidding! I don't get bitten by mosquitoes easily...
- Karen Tan, when told she had dengue
BY THE numbers
Number of dengue cases reported in the week of Jan 10 to Jan 16, the highest weekly figure in over a year.
Number of red zone dengue clusters, which refer to high-risk areas with 10 or more cases.
DENGUE CASES ON THE RISE
- The El Nino phenomenon, which has contributed to warmer weather, and a change in the main circulating virus have been cited as key factors in the spike in dengue cases, which have been on the rise since the start of the year.
- The National Environment Agency has warned that it is seeing a further increase in the Aedes mosquito population, with the number of dengue cases in 2016 expected to be high.
- The latest updates on the dengue situation can be found at the Stop Dengue Now Facebook page, www.dengue.gov.sg or the myENV app.
Source: National Environment Agency